By Dietlind Siedentopf
When Namibian swimmers compete internationally they use the opportunity to establish best performances, national records, international rankings and added competitive experience. And once again, two of Namibiaâ??s top swimmers, Dannielle van Zijl and Alex Ray, have returned from the World Championships in Shanghai, China with all these kudos.
Dannielle van Zijl climbs international rankings
Dannielle, who has now attended her 3rd World Championship, continues to climb the international rankings with a highest world placing of 22nd in the 200m breaststroke. Her 200m Individual Medley ranks her as 24th at these World Championships and in all three other events she swam she finished amongst the top 35 in the world. (30th 100m breast, 31st 100m Ind Medley, 33rd 50 breast).
This 20 year old balances her studies in Sports Science at the University of Pretoria, with her 35 hour training week, amassing 45kms in the water and juggling books, tests, nutrition, rehab and a little bit of social life to prove that the best sportsmen are those who can manage all facets of challenge in life.
Eight Namibian records for Alex Ray
Alex Ray, who at 18 has now attended his first ever World Short Course Championships, took it upon himself to create a new tidal wave of challenges for those Namibian swimmers that will follow him. When he finished his five events in China he had eight new Namibian records to his name. As a teenager he not only broke the Namibian Age Group records in the 50m free and fly events, and the 100m free and fly eventsâ?¦but also swam faster than any Namibian before.
With the average age of 26 in the male events, Alex and other Namibian male swimmers will also have to juggle their studies and careers in order to stay in the sport long enough to be competitive against the more muscled and experienced men. Alexâ??s final positions ranged from 52nd to 72nd, but often the fields were composed of more than 100 swimmers so his standings are respectable.
Worldâ??s top swimmers
The World Championship field included 19 world long course medallists, 32 world short course medallists, seven Olympic medallists and five short course world record holders. The event saw 128 nations, ranging from Guatemala to Mongolia, competing at the impressive Qi Zhong stadium (which has a seating capacity of 15 000 and is shaped like a Magnolia - the city of Shanghai's official flower)
Shanghai itself was very impressive with its blend of ultramodern buildings and old colonial facades. Most impressive was how clean the streets were and that every free corner was planted with sculpted gardens and trees. In a city of 15 million combined with lots of traffic and energy usage the skies are a khaki-brown, so the plants are there not only to attract the eye and the soul but also as anti-pollution â??machinesâ?.
Very few speak English so University students acted as attaches to the attending teams. Getting used to strange foods was the most difficult part with soups for breakfast and entrees with names like â??bloated croakerâ?, â??braised plaited tailâ?, â??tomorrow eelâ? and â??jelly hornâ?. Yet it all tasted good and must have had some benefit since both Namibians improved on their performances just two weeks earlier at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. And with these performances they are well on the road to visiting China again in two yearâ??s time!